Kyle Busch finally beat the beast that’s haunted him for more than 10 years as he emerged victorious in the Go Bowling 400 Saturday night. Going the last 56 laps without pitting, Busch held hard charges from a multitude of drivers through two separate restarts to knock another track off of his winless list, leaving Charlotte and Pocono as the only two facilities at which he has yet to visit Victory Lane.
Kevin Harvick, who struggled mightily to find the handling and speed that he wanted on Friday, worked his way through the field from a dismal 26th-place qualifying effort to a runner-up finish.
“Thought we had a good run today. Just really proud of my team for what they did,” Harvick said after the race. “From where the car was yesterday, to change pretty much everything on the car and have it be that competitive on the racetrack today says a lot about our team.
“We went down some different roads throughout the weekend that didn’t work and were able to go with what we normally run and be competitive,” he continued. “So just super proud of the effort and excited that we have the capability to do the things that we did today.”
Harvick’s teammate Kurt Busch ran inside the top 10 all day and ultimately ended up third, though he never led a lap. Matt Kenseth scored his best finish of the season and led three laps along the way.
“It’s our best finish of the year, so that’s the bright side. I’m sort of happy for Kyle (Busch) and Adam (Stevens, 18 crew chief), but seriously happy for everyone at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing),” Kenseth said after his fourth-place finish. “Martin (Truex, Jr.) had them covered and I don’t know what happened to him in the pits or whatever. We were about a second to fourth-place car most of the day. I thought we were as good as the 18 (Busch) if we could have had the position, but it was tough to stick on that bottom. I tried something different there to try to lay back and get the pass, but once they were single file I couldn’t go get them. We were just a little off, but these guys had great pit stops and great adjustments and we seem to be getting closer.”
“We started off the race really, really good, and I thought that’s when we were the strongest – when the sun was up and the track was a little bit hotter,” Blaney said during his post-race media availability. “We were really strong and then as the night came and it cooled off a little bit, we lost a little bit of speed. I felt like everyone kind of gained grip and got better and we lost a little bit. It took us a while to get that back.
“We got it closer toward the end there, but it was still a decent finish for us. We got some spots with that little accident, but we were up there all day. It was just a good day for us, a good night and something to build off of for sure.
Meanwhile, the dominant car all weekend failed to get the job done once again. Martin Truex, Jr. led 95 laps last fall but finished ninth, and this time he held the top spot for 172 circuits but brought the No. 78 Toyota home 14th. A late-race green-flag pit stop doomed Truex as a loose wheel forced him to make a second stop under green, ultimately eliminating him from contention.
“I couldn’t believe it. Went around (turns) one and two and I was like, ‘Wheel’s loose.’ I kept telling myself that maybe it’s not me, maybe it’s just shaking because it has tape on it or something stupid,” Truex said after another heartbreak in Kansas. “It was loose and I knew it right away. Frustrating, but that’s how it goes.
“We’re going to win races for sure – if we keep bringing cars like that, we’re going to win some. It’s frustrating when you’ve had it happen so many times in your career,” he continued. “I swear, you watch guys win races that don’t have the fastest car or on fuel mileage and all this stuff and it’s like, damn. Someday I’m going to get on one of those or on the other side of one of them. Usually you can dominate and win, but its tough and it happens. It’s part of racing.”
The race was slowed by six cautions, including the largest incident of the night that came in the form of a four-car accident that collected Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Kyle Larson.
“I was going in there three-wide. I wasn’t letting off and the 42 (Kyle Larson) was just too close up there,” Hamlin said in the garage. “It wasn’t his fault by any means, but we were both trying to drive in there to clear each other and I just got loose and I mean that’s crazy there was no contact, but both me and 2 (Brad Keselowski) got loose there. Shame – I just screwed us on pit road twice.
“Our car was a fast car today. Just didn’t show it. We were just in the back because I sped twice. I’ve got to get better on pit lane to give us a chance and then I was just going for it there because I knew our car had some speed. I was on two tires and the guys in front of me were on none or two. I was just going for it. I’ve got the win and that’s part of this format is going for it and that’s what we did.”
10 leaders swapped the top spot 16 different times, and race winner Kyle Busch led the second most laps at 69. Tony Stewart was out front for 12 circuits, and the remaining seven drivers led five or fewer.
Kyle Busch now stands as the lone driver with three victories this season, all but locking himself into the Chase. Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski have two wins, while Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have one apiece.